Helen Padarin

Thyroid and Kraut

Thyroid and Kraut

A lot of people are unsure about whether or not to have sauerkraut or other fermented veggies if they have any low thyroid function problems (hypothyroidism / hashimoto’s thyroiditis). The short answer comes in three parts and is this: for most of you with low thyroid function, you will have no trouble having sauerkraut and other fermented veggies of the brassica family,in fact you will benefit from including them. A very small percentage of you may need to avoid brassica family for a short period of time (not forever), and all of you will be fine with non-brassica family ferments. Got it? Good! So let’s look at why, especially for those of you wondering what on earth I’m talking about!

A lot of people are unsure about whether or not to have sauerkraut or other fermented veggies if they have any low thyroid function problems (hypothyroidism / hashimoto’s thyroiditis). The […]

There’s a common misconception that eating foods that are high in goitrogens should be avoided by those with low thyroid function. Goitrogens are naturally occurring compounds found in many plants. They essentially block the uptake of iodine and therefore can result in lowered thyroid function. While this theory has been in place for years, in reality dietary goitrogens have very little effect if any on thyroid function in developed countries. Goitrogens are named as such because they can lead to the development of goiter. A goiter is a thickening of the tissue of the thyroid gland. Externally it can look like a swelling of the throat area. The actually cause of goiter is in fact inflammation as a result of chronic inflammation caused by autoimmune activity on the thyroid. People with low thyroid function are often advised to avoid goitrogenic foods, in particular the brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, bok choy, radishes etc), for the unfounded ear that it will contribute to or exacerbate low thyroid function. In reality it is basically impossible to eat enough of the brassica family to elicit a goitrogenic effect – we’re talking paddocks full. There have been very few patients I have worked with who have noticed a negative impact from including such foods in the diet. On the contrary, the brassica family has an astounding array of beneficial antioxidant, anti-cancer and detoxifying phytonutrients within them. Considering how sensitive the thyroid gland is to damage by oxidation and toxins, it is actually very important to make sure such protective foods are part of the diet.

Of course, we must take into account bio-individuaility – the fact that we all respond in our own unique way to any given food. If you do a trial and find yourself in the very small percentage of individuals that do actually feel better off the brassica family, it would be worthwhile investigating your iodine and selenium levels and restoring these to optimal. And of course you want to look at the underlying reasons you have hypothyroid in the first place. Most cases of hypothyroidism are autoimmune in nature, and as we discuss in other blog posts, whenever dealing with autoimmunity and inflammation, it is essential to first and foremost address gut health and the gut microflora – your gut bugs. These microbes regulate immune function, and as such dictate how your immune system responds to different triggers. In cases of autoimmunity, regardless of the disease name or the location of the symptoms (e.g hashimoto’s thyroiditis affecting the thyroid, or rheumatoid arthritis affecting the joints) the disease is actually one of the immune system – not the body part where the symptoms are experienced. Regulating the immune system through gut health and gut flora is the place to start.

So if you do find you feel better off the brassica family, there’s much more to fermented veggies than just sauerkraut. You can happily enjoy fermented carrot sticks, cucumber sticks and other cabbage free recipes. You can also enjoy fermented beverages like beet kvass and coconut water kefir.

So, the take home message is that even for people with low thyroid function, the brassica family are not only safe to include, but actually important to include. As with any food, not every food will suit every person. If this family of foods doesn’t suit you at the moment, looking at doing a short term avoidance while working on the underlying triggers and then reintroduce these foods into your diet so they can support you on your way to your best health yet.

By Helen Padarin

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